This photo taken on April 17, 2012 by the Straits Times newspaper shows a worker installing a CCTV camera system in a multistorey carpark of a public housing estate in Singapore. Singapore has begun installing police surveillance cameras that will eventually cover all 10,000 public-housing blocks across the island, officials confirmed April 20. (AFP Photo/Straits Times/Joseph Nair)
Singapore, April 20, 2012 (AFP) - Singapore has begun installing police surveillance cameras that will eventually cover all 10,000 public-housing blocks across the island, officials confirmed Friday.
The move immediately drew mixed reactions in a city-state already famous for being one of the world's safest societies but now undergoing political transition as citizens demand greater freedom from government control.
"Welcome to Big Brother!" popular local satirist Mr. Brown wrote on Twitter, referring to a fictional character in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty Four about a totalitarian state where each citizen is watched by a camera.
Critics also posted negative comments on the police Facebook page but supporters enthusiastically welcomed the move.
"Excellent, good idea. Keep it up. God bless Singapore police force," Facebook user Rahul Chaudhary wrote.
Installations have begun at 300 blocks and by 2016 the cameras will be operational on the ground floors of all 10,000 government-built apartment blocks where over 80 percent of the population live.
Entry and exit points of public car parks will also be covered.
"The cameras will not be monitored 'live' but the images that they record can be used to solve crime should it occur within the camera zone," the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said in a statement sent to AFP.
"They can effectively aid investigations and help deter crime," it said.
A sign with the words "Police Camera In Operation" will be placed near the surveillance points to deter potential criminals as well as inform members of the public that they are being filmed.
"We don't know what the surveillance is for, whether it will be for fighting crime or something worse," said Mohammed Zakaria, 27, a freelance photographer.
He told AFP the initiative was "a ridiculous waste of public resources... You can put the resources to better use, like feeding the poor."
But supporter Anna Marie Doe wrote on the police Facebook page: "I so love this new phase. I'm so looking forward for all this to work along with the SPF."
Singapore's reputation for safety and cleanliness has long made it an attractive destination for businesses, expatriates and tourists.
Overall crime in Singapore, which has a population of 5.2 million including more than a million foreigners, fell 5.3 percent year-on-year to 31,504 cases last year, according to figures published on the police website.
The crime rate in 2011 was also the lowest in two decades, it said.
Singapore has been ruled by the same political party for more than 50 years. However, citizens have become increasingly vocal through social media, particularly since the campaign for the May 2011 general elections when the party's popularity fell to an all-time low of 60 percent.